[JURIST] Thirty-eight people were convicted of corruption Wednesday for rigging public works contracts to finance political parties while now-French President Jacques Chirac [official profile; BBC profile] was mayor of Paris in the late 1980s and early '90s. Prosecutors alleged that companies kicked back money spent by the regional Ile-de-France Council for secondary school construction to political parties including Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR), the Republican Party (PR) and the Socialists (PS). After nearly a decade of investigation, the trial began [JURIST report] in March 2005. Most of the convicted defendants, who were business executives and public housing officials, were ordered to pay damages. Charges were dropped against 11 others.
Chirac refused to appear before the court and was not legally required to do so following a High Court of Appeals ruling [text, in French] that sitting presidents are immune from judicial proceedings. Chirac did, however, deny allegations that he knew about the kickbacks. Voice of America has more. AP has additional coverage. Le Monde has local coverage.